Here’s a question I’ve been asking my entire life, and I’ve never gotten an answer that sounded logical: why do we have Daylight Saving Time? Probably the only response I’ve ever gotten that sounded right was that, during World War II, they started Daylight Saving Time so that people would have time to come home from work and work in their victory gardens, because food was scarce. But that was 75 years ago! We still have Daylight Saving Time. Unfortunately, it went from its original three months, to eight months, now. I don’t know anybody who knows why we even have it. I don’t think it’s something we really need, but it’s probably a government program, and there’s probably a hundred people working in some department who justify their pay by periodically making changes to Daylight Saving Time. Other than that, it absolutely makes no sense.
— Anonymous, via voicemail
Would you believe I get this question a lot?
Any decent pub trivia expert knows that the three hardest-to-grasp concepts in the known world are:
(1) The Common Law Rule Against Perpetuities;
(2) The reason behind Daylight Saving Time; and
(3) The lyrics to “Yellow Ledbetter.”
Of those three things, one is purposefully impenetrable, one is a bizarre consequence of a millennium of tension between land-owning aristocrats and the open market, while another is subject to a thousand different and unsubstantiated theories. I leave it to you to figure out which is which.
For a detailed account of the history of Daylight Saving Time, consider Seize the Daylight, by David Prerau. You can get a used hardcover copy for one penny on Amazon. Better yet, visit your local library.
In the end, you’re right. Like hipsterism, no single reason exists to justify the existence of Daylight Saving Time. Nevertheless, it’s proven indispensible to some, vexatious to many, and more or less inextricable; so I guess we just have to deal with it. At least we don’t have to worry about forgetting to set the clocks ahead, since our mobile devices obviate the need to spring forward and/or fall back. But, in case you’re still sporting a watch and manual alarm clock (retro hipster style, maybe?), Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, March 12, at 2:00 a.m.